How much is the average weekly shop?

If it had risen in line with house prices over the last forty years, the average weekly shop would now cost £453.

Yep, that’s £453 for food for a family every week.

When Shelter told me this I was absolutely horrified. “Bloody hell,” I said to them, “it’s no wonder I can’t afford to buy a house is it?” Shelter did the research to highlight how for many people in the UK, that classic dream of owning your own home, and providing a sense of security for your  family, is simply impossible.

"Follow your dreams - cancelled"

To highlight the extent of the UK’s dysfunctional housing market, Shelter analysed the cost of a typical weekly shop for a family of four based on house price inflation since 1971. At that time the weekly shop cost £10.40, and the average home £5,632. By 2011 the price of the average home had shot up to £245,319 – over 43 times more expensive. This puts the average weekly shop at £453.23.

If you apply this same rate of inflation to some basic food items, this is what you get:

  • a 4-pint carton of milk would cost £10.45
  • a chicken would cost £51.18
  • a bunch of 6 bananas would cost £8.47
  • a box of 6 eggs would cost £5.01
  • a loaf of sliced white bread would cost £4.36
  • a leg of lamb would cost £53.18

It’s bonkers isn’t it? How has something as basic as housing been able to spiral so out of control? Having had my children young, I’ve been particularly affected, as I never had that window where I could buy a one-bedroom flat just to get myself on the property ladder. Will I find myself now having to wait until they leave home before I can afford to buy a house??

A recent poll by Shelter showed that 59% of British adults who don’t own a home believe they’ll never be able to afford to buy in their local area. Many are left with a choice between living at home with parents or bringing up their children in insecure private rented housing.

If this is the plight of so many young people nowadays, perhaps my children will never even be able to afford to leave home. Then we’ll all be screwed.

Have you been able to afford to buy your own house or are you priced out of the market and forced to rent?




  1. 8 February, 2013 / 11:02 am

    Wow, I know house prices were exorbitantly high but I didn’t realise they’d shot up so dramatically in contrast to everything else!

    I’m in a similar situation to you in that my eldest was born when I was 17, so haven’t had a time in my life when I’ve been earning enough to buy a property. We’re living in a Council house at the moment which makes things equally awkward – the area is awful and we’d love to move somewhere more pleasant but because council waiting lists are so huge we’d have to rent privately and this would cost AT LEAST double the rent we’re paying now. Not to mention having to save for a deposit and month’s rent in advance =/

    Thanks for posting this, it was a really enlightening read!

  2. Polly
    8 February, 2013 / 11:18 am

    I’m 28, my husband 27. We have a 1yo boy & rent. He was in a lot of debt so wasn’t saving for a house and I’m not British so the housing market was completely unknown to me before I moved here. Needless to say, unless we win the lottery, in the current state of things I’m more & more convinced that we’ll never own. And as you know with the uncertainty of renting I doubt my son will ever live somewhere we can all call home & really mean it.

  3. 8 February, 2013 / 1:41 pm

    We cannot afford to buy. I think the other side effect of the crazy house prices is that the benefit bill is higher than it needs to be. Thanks to all the buy to let landlords artificially inflating house prices, rents are high compared to wages, and many of us IN work require a housing benefit contribution to afford our rent. It is a ridiculous situation.

  4. 8 February, 2013 / 3:00 pm

    I would love to be able to buy, better than private renting at a huge cost to myself. But the bank are not interested that I pay nearly £500 a month in rent that could go to a mortage.

  5. Sally
    8 February, 2013 / 5:02 pm

    It is shocking, but I think it’s a case of now or never. I managed to buy a property when I was in my 20’s in London, it cost me a fortune compared to my very lowly salary and took a huge chunk of my salary, but was of course worth it. The problem we have now is that house prices are as low as they are going to be. It was reported yesterday that house prices are starting to rise again, so there is only one way this is all going. Quite simply we don’t have enough housing in places where people want to live (I now live in Wales, and it is ridiculously cheap compared to what I was used to) but then the minute there are plans to significantly increase the housing stock the NIMBY’s come out in force and put a stop to new developmenets (the whole British NIMBY mentality is personal pet hate of mine) plus the banks continue to put huge strangle holds on everyone due to their now ridiculously over-zealous lending requirements, but there are obviously enough people out there with the money to pay for the housing stock that we have or else prices would be lower…..

  6. David
    8 February, 2013 / 5:59 pm

    It is shocking yet the papers, when they have nothing else to report, often post headlines like “Good News- House prices set to rise by x%…”
    I lost my house in a divorce some years ago and have had to rent ever since, with rents rising out of line with reality as well, at least in the private sector… Part of the problem in London is that London has become the magnet for everybody, including gangsters, crook, bankers and members of the ruling cliques in some of the less democratic parts of the world. This is good, in a round about sort of way in that people who made their money easily will spend it easily in our shops and stuff; but it has an unfortunate side effect that the same people will pay inflated prices for property in the centre and this puts pressure on prices in the inner London boroughs which puts pressure on the outer London boroughs which puts pressure on the home counties which puts pressure on the commuter towns and so on until everybody is paying “too much” for their homes. What is “too much”? well it must be a multiple of earnings. When I bought my first flat years ago lenders would not lend more than 2.5/3 times annual earnings and so people could not pay very much. Now this multiple will get nothing and so many of us are priced out of the market. The only solution is to increase supply, which would bring down prices. Houses in London don’t cost much to build relative to the cost of the land (which is the measure of scarcity). How to increase supply? By changing planning laws and possibly forcing people with empty or unused property to “use it or lose it”. Converting unwanted commercial premises to housing also seems to work and could help.

    Anyway, thanks for putting this message up. I have never written anything in a blog and now I’ve written about 20 lines..

  7. 9 February, 2013 / 12:19 pm

    I’m in the same position as you. If we want to buy a house now we’d have to buy a ‘family house’. Never going to happen, especially as our parents are either too poor or too young to have any sort of inheritance to offer. I’m the only one of my friends who doesn’t own a house.

    It mostly doesn’t bother me until I panic & wonder how we will survive when we retire.

  8. honeybee
    10 February, 2013 / 2:04 pm

    I’m also in the ‘never-to-own-a-home’ clique & I find it makes me so very disappointed with myself because over the years I have paid enough in rent to social housing, and now, private landlords to have covered the cost of a small home.

    Now, at nearly 40 years old – having had my first child at 16 years old – I know I will never be in the position to help my own children to buy a home as a owner-guarantor, never have the assets to provide myself with some professional freedom, and never have the kind of security that will help to pay for any care costs when I’m too old to look after myself.

    Although, I don’t like to live with regrets, I have to say this is one that does bear on my soul.

  9. 10 February, 2013 / 7:19 pm

    House prices are ridiculous, especially where we want to buy in the future in Surrey. We’re lucky, we get help from the army and my parents will also help with a deposit but without that we couldn’t ever afford to own our own home.

  10. 14 February, 2013 / 3:44 pm

    Hi, I agree housing market in this country needs some serious sorting out. I am lucky – we bought our own home and are now in rented accommodation, looking for a new home – and can’t find anything suitable (long story). I am seeing the downside of rental market now at first hand. One of the big problems is that there is no incentive to improve rental properties in private sector, in part because of the lack of security of tenure.

    It is quite ironic in a way as I also have two investment properties that I rent out (both well insulated and kept in good state of repair, I invest in them because I see them as a longer term investment and my tenants’ home – I am not looking to mkae a quick buck, but to provide a service and to get a longer term return on investment.) In the meantime, I’m living with rising damp and other yucky things I can’t do anything about.

    Obviously, I’m biased, but I don’t think it is buy-to-let landlords pushing the price of properties up. Affordability is down to many things. Supply and demand is obviously the fundamental, but lack of investment in housing stock (in particular public funding) in my opinion is key. Having overlent, banks are now squeezing borrowers (if they will lend at all). In addition, there is a base of inherited “wealth,” all of which makes it very tough for FTBs.

    I really am not sure what the answer is. It is not the solution many would-be FTBs are looking for, but a better private rented sector (with better rights of security of tenure for tenants) may be a better way forward (possibly with extension of options and right-to-buys).

    There are still some “bargains” out there if you look hard, are flexible about areas (not always possible, I know) are very patient, are prepared to do some work and can secure the finance (bad luck the banks hate anything even remotely risky and charge prettily for lending money, the huge administration fees are a relatively new thing).

    Part rent, part buy schemes and staircasing (where you can buy increasing % of equity in a home) are other possibilities, but there’s no denying it is very tough out there to get started. In MHO there really needs to be much more targetted investment in this sector.

    • admin
      15 February, 2013 / 9:35 am

      Thanks for your comment. You’re totally right about the rental market – inconsistency seems to be a big trend. We’ve been very lucky with the last two houses we’ve been in, where our landlords have genuinely been nice people and wanted to look after the house, but the one before that we were just part of a massive portfolio and the landlord was keen to do as little as possible! Not having that control can be very frustrating.

  11. 14 February, 2013 / 6:13 pm

    We’re paying the same amount in rent as a mortgage and, again, would need to hop straight up the property ladder to a 3-bed. Owning a house isn’t everything but it’s not even an option for us at the moment. Great article. Really puts everything into perspective!
    B. x

    • admin
      15 February, 2013 / 9:33 am

      Thanks Beckie, glad you enjoyed it!

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